DOUGLAS — The doors of Headstrong Brewery were still more than an hour from opening to the public, but he was there, fidgeting nervously.
Outside of the lively bar and the mumbling of conversations from across the room, Dakota Honaker sat alone on a small loveseat in the dark.
His face was illuminated by the screen of his smartphone, spending hours at the brewery studying his jokes and comedy routine he would soon be expected to perform flawlessly before a room of people he’s known his whole life.
Throwing a wrench into the mix, the show will be his second time headlining a comedy event in his two years on the grind.
“The other (comedians) want me to prove my worth,” he said. “I’m a little bit nervous, but excited.”
He acts confident but cautious, as he doesn’t want to “bomb” the performance – especially this one in front of his hometown and friends. He’s bombed in Douglas before, he admits, but is confident in his growth performing stand up.
“It’s more personal when you’re in Douglas,” he said of his routines. “You don’t want to be disrespectful to them, but it’s just a show. You do what you would do at a show in Denver.”
At the same time, he knows he must stay the course.
“I try to stay real to myself with what I think is funny and what I think is real,” he said. “I don’t want anything bad to happen, but I’m in control with the mic. It’s all up to me.”
Doing so is critical if he wants to continue growing his image as a sprouting comedian in his new career.
Honaker began doing comedy two years ago when his job working in the mines came to an unexpected halt. Instead of searching for another job, he took the layoff as a chance to tackle his dream.
“I’d wanted to always follow my passion in comedy,” he said. “I’ve studied it for years and it all led up to that.”
He took his “unconventional, edgy and dark sense of humor” to open mic nights in Douglas and surrounding cities. He made it a point to focus his routines around his experiences living in a small town, at being a father and at being married.
That is, before being noticed by Casper-based comedians Matt Frias, Don Haines and Daren Bulow. The three joined him at his first big gig in Douglas, and they
gave Honaker the honor of headlining the show. Honaker came up with the WY NOT Comedy Tour around the state. Saturday’s was the first show of the tour.
As he sat on the loveseat, he said if the show goes well, the group of comedians would continue bouncing around various cities in the Cowboy State.
Few seats were left empty as the show time approached, as community members poured into the brewery for a unique night of comedy – something people in Douglas hardly ever see. The tour would certainly get Honaker’s name out as a comedian in Wyoming, which is just what he needs if he wants to make his dream come true.
“This is it,” he said. “This is what I want to do. I’ve put all my eggs in this basket, so I can’t let it fail for me.”
He thinks of his wife, Morgan, and his two daughters. Their support means everything to him. He knows it’s a big risk, not just by bombing in front of a hometown crowd but about gambling their future on his dream.
“I want to do this for a living and provide for my family,” he said. “I want to make people laugh.”
As the doors opened for last Saturday’s show, the brewery slowly filled to near max capacity over the course of an hour. In between chatting with friends and refilling his drink at the bar, Honaker spent most of the time leading up to the start of the show sitting on that same couch, cellphone in hand, eyes glued to the screen studying his lines.
He didn’t bomb. In fact, his routine brought the loudest laughs of the night.